Kya deLongchamps visits an executive level, 21st century eco-home near Mitchelstown, cleverly suggesting two centuries of charm and change
Santosha, Garryvurragha, Mitchelstown, Co Cork
TO QUOTE the young professional owners — ‘the world just falls away — it’s serenity, escape’.
One of the last self-builds allowed in the area at a heady elevation of 600 feet, Santosha sits on gentle foothills near the most luxuriant reaches of the Galtee Mountains.
The vendors chanced on the property in 2004, a few minutes by fern-billowed roads from Kilbehenny and an effortless dual-carriageway spin to Mitchelstown.
Entranced as they crossed the romantic gorge splicing the lands with an Alpine pitch of river, and pushing their way through screens of brambles to the centre of the smallholding — the view snatched at their hearts.
The original two-storey farmhouse survives intact, appropriate to agricultural needs, its back to a tilted basin of 23 acres of rich meadow grazing.
Acting sentry on the now gentrified avenue approached through SIM enabled gates edged in Ardagh Estate Fencing, the flaking timber door remains locked — a lightly explored time-capsule of the bachelor soul who tended the ancient field patterns.
Currently leased, the land at Santosha offers multiple wild habitats for animals and birds including mixed native hedging and a ‘mindful walking path’ winding into and around the land, taking in a parish sally field shifting in willow wands.
Santosha is a place that celebrates every season.
The new house, designed by Alan Brennan, in lively alliance with the vendors, Santosha (a Sanskrit word for contentment) appears to have accrued naturally from the early 1800s through to the present day.
Set at the centre of the property, seven distinct volumes hang on the vernacular of a two up/two down Irish farmhouse and embrace a rural flagged courtyard.
There’s a mews-style two-storey outbuilding with garage, office and over-head studio clad in salmon pink Galtee sandstone.
Indications of sympathetic extensions make up the cuddle of wings and bays of a typical period country house, grown and developed with changing design inspirations and human aspirations.
It’s a characterful and convincing lie, cloaked in bush-hammered limestone sills gilded in lichen, pebbledash renders, cedar cladding, Spanish slate and an aluminium rain water system playing cast-iron.
Under this beguiling patina is a 21st century super home, a massive investment put into self maintaining, practical ultra efficiency.
The intent during the 2008-09 build was to meticulously future-proof in style and substance for a century.
There’s deliberate over-engineering dug into the acres and architecture.
The planners demanded a bio-cycle waste water treatment facility.
They got a Biotech purification, Bord na Mona peat filters and extensive reed beds.
With a 200mm block cavity to external walls, 160mm of insulation was included, together with insulation taken right into the apex of the roof.
This 350m² home requires a laughable €900pa for air and water heating at consistent temperatures, and will be influenced more by the collective body heat of the inhabitants than fluctuations in energy prices.
UFH fed from a geothermal heat pump and two heat recovery units warms all but one floor (you don’t want your wines warmed in the cellar).
The air is exchanged six times a day with a mountain-pure intake of breath.
The well turned out to be an enthusiastic gusher of an aquifer delivering water at 6-13C with bar pressure that makes an idling pump unnecessary.
One room, deep as expected for a classic rural house, understated and ringing with vintage touches through the second fix and furnishings, the illusion continues.
The countryman’s entrance (one of four) leads to a group of practical rooms with their heels in the Victorian hunting lodge.
A Mandarin slated hall adjuncts a wc/wet-room suited to mud spattered offspring and/or rinsing off the Labrador.
This rounds to a generous utility-room taking appliance and storage weight off an already vast kitchen/diner.
Next, there’s a full pantry shelved in tasty oak cabinetwork taken to the ceiling.
The generous family room features three elegant 18th century styled sash windows in a double aspect and a magnificent refurbished Victorian surround from John Walsh Fireplaces.
Here as everywhere, traditional elements incorporate contemporary technologies — the windows from Marvin Architectural are alu-clad, powder coated-units that offer timber facing indoors and a nostalgic, liquid slide, but flip down for cleaning.
The L-shaped kitchen features large-format cream porcelain tiles, a marble topped abstract shaped island, Shaker informed solid beech units with integrated Neff appliances and two exquisite, square sashes looking back into the intimacy of the yard.
At over 95m² this open plan function group easily accommodates a subbuteo table before breaking to the stretch of a semi-formal dining area.
A table for 12 set in a bay of floor to ceiling windows, hovers on the horizon — the signature, eye-watering panorama, shared by the adjacent garden room.
Here, the flooring returns to slate for the indoor/outdoor flow of the garden room on a south-west corner.
A patio recalling the visual tricks of an infinity pool, marries through sliding doors with a light drenched summer space into a sky-hung entertainment stage.
It’s one of several vantages to watch the sun arc through a vivid, 180 spectacle, falling off to the leathery flanks of the Knockmealdowns.
A Mediterranean style garden, made mannerly in an hour, extends around the demi-lune of the patio turning the south west corner and continuing in white washed raised beds on the west facade.
Turning back from the mesmerising twin aspect is the shared, curved rear wall of the library beyond.
Now quietly defending in a calming grey, this was a curt talking point with the builder who determinedly teased and stacked hand-made oak skirting to perfect the owners’ vision.
Taking to the main downstairs corridor is the officers’ quarters — the library, a room with a mature formality and keen comfort finished in wide plank oak boards, built-in oak shelving and window seats by local carpenter Darren Dennigan.
Adorned with another period fireplace — this one in lightly crazed white Carrara — the library is favoured by this family in winter for fireside reading, dreamy tipples and hotly contended wars of billiards during weekend country parties (ask about the fabulous table and wall hung brass scorer, they are up for sale too).
The 10kw cast iron stove is not actually needed with the super efficiencies of the house and includes a fresh air intake (the environment of the house is for all intents and purposes passively seal ed and managed).
There is another site for a stove in the kitchen/diner if chill-blooded new owners want to open an extant chimney.
Downstairs rooms are completed by a corridor and formal entrance hall with two offices, one currently detailed as a meditation/yoga room and ideal for an individual or couple managing multiple businesses from home.
The luckier of the two gets to defend a wine room/cellar with a cool atmosphere to protect the integrity of their collection.
There’s enough room for one office to serve as the 5th or 6th bedroom, the ante-room easily re-imagined to an en-suite.
Upstairs is hushed by solid concrete floors throughout, split levels reaching down onto the hillside on the north end of the house.
The main guest quarters here could sleep eight and is served by an en-suite, a separate entrance, and a large family bathroom.
Two more generous doubles lead onto the master-suite at the coveted south aspect, which is five star quality in four distinct breaks — a wide ante-chamber, en-suite with roll top bath, his/hers twins basins and shower, plus a magnificent walnut veneered dressing room.
The vast bedroom is curated to greet the sunrise to the south with a three section bespoke window at the foot of the bed.
That positivity of intent at Santosha extends to the inhabitants, to real life — rooms from the front door forward allow for multi-generational life-styling and fluid purposes — wide doorways for wheelchairs, downstairs bathrooms, entrances even upstairs leading out to ground level.
Offices indoor and out, invite home based-business adventures and teenage rock rehearsals.
Let the land, and active retirees have a home they essentially never have to leave, but which can accommodate an army of extended family for sabbatical and weekend stays.
Cottage, herb, vegetable gardens, a hen house/pen, a small orchard and a ‘willow-wam’ are already in place. Keep it all for yourself and a profitable and self-sustaining small-holding quietly waits.
Joint agency: Lawrence Sweeney at Savills, and Eamonn O’Brien of CCM Property Network Mitchelstown.
VERDICT: With fascinating potential, Santosha offers a life-altering outlook on the world. Five minutes from the Dublin-Cork M8 motorway and 30 minutes from the Jack Lynch tunnel.
There are several excellent local national schools and secondary schools in the Mitchelstown area, and satellite broadband facilities on the property.
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